Italy’s centre-left government appeared on the brink of collapse after two ministers from former prime minister Matteo Renzi’s party Italia Viva resigned on Wednesday, local media reported.
Renzi told reporters that agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova and Family Minister Elena Bonetti are stepping down, and Conte has accepted their resignations.
Ivan Scalfarotto, a deputy foreign minister, is also expected to step down.
Renzi had earlier threatened to pull his centrist party out of the ruling coalition after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s Cabinet passed plans to use billions of euros in European Union (EU) coronavirus aid.
Renzi is unhappy with the way the spending is organised.
Renzi said many of Conte’s measures to combat the pandemic broke democratic rules, in comments to the press, but he also offered to negotiate over the next steps.
The two departing ministers, Bellanova and Bonetti, reportedly called again on Conte to apply for funds from the European rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), a move he has repeatedly refused.
Meanwhile, right-wing opposition parties including Matteo Salvini’s League said the prime minister should resign, and that without a swift solution to the crisis, elections should be called.
Conte called a meeting of the Cabinet for later on Wednesday evening.
Earlier on Wednesday, Conte said that he had already spoken with President Sergio Mattarella about the dispute in the coalition.
Renzi’s Italia Viva party is small but key to the survival of the coalition, which also includes the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement.
Tensions among the parties have simmered for weeks over the use of around 210 billion euros (256 billion dollars) from the EU post-pandemic reconstruction fund.
Italian media speculated that Conte is keen to avoid new elections.
He could therefore ask for a vote of confidence in parliament and try to find another coalition configuration.
The next parliamentary elections in Italy are not scheduled until 2023. (dpa/NAN)
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